Category: Travel-tastic

3 days in Dubrovnik

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As I gear up for my next holiday, I realised I haven’t blogged about my last trip, to Dubrovnik. It’s not like I haven’t had time or anything. The trip was 2 months ago and I’ve been off work for 5 weeks now <<sore point>>. But I didn’t so I’m going to correct that fact and tell you about it now.

I’m not sure when and why going to Dubrovnik became one of my travel priorities. It was definitely already right up there back in April 2016 when I wrote a list of places I wanted to visit. The architecture, city walls and coastal location made it a really appealing city break. Dubrovnik is small enough to get around in a few days. That said, there’s enough to do and see to fill the time and feel the city. Of course, later we started watching Game of Thrones, some of which is filmed in Dubrovnik, and my interest was piqued.

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A visit to Moffat and the Annandale Arms Hotel

Remember in my life update post I mentioned that I’d been to Scotland? The purpose of the trip was a meeting the husband needed to go to in East Kilbride, but he suggested we stay in a little town called Moffat. He’d been there before so was familiar with the area, and he booked us into the Annandale Arms Hotel, right in the middle of the High Street.

We arrived to a very warm and friendly welcome and, even though we were earlier than the allocated check in time, our room was ready so we were able to settle in. The hotel has a comfortably furnished reception area, good size dining room and a small bar.

Annandale Arms reception desk

Annandale Arms hotel reception

Annandale Arms lounge area

Annandale Arms cosy corner

The room was bright and airy with two huge sash windows, and the bathroom had a large powerful shower. It was quite obvious that everything had been recently refurbished, and to a good standard.

So, what’s in Moffat?

Not a lot really – as I mentioned it’s only a small town, but it’s very quaint. Picturesque houses, bunting in the street and some nice independent shops; unfortunately we hadn’t realised that Wednesday appears to be a half day for most of the retailers so we were restricted to browsing through the windows (of the shops, not the houses!)

Moffat quaint house

Moffat side street

Moffat Weavers Tweed Shop

Moffat pub and rooms

I did pick up a couple of good planting tips though. This chair planter would be easy to recreate – I’d paint it a bright pink colour I think.

Moffat chair planter

This quirky record planter made my vinyl purist husband shudder, such a waste of records! It wouldn’t hurt if they were rubbish ones though I don’t think?

Moffat record planter

There are a handful of teashops and quite a few pubs – we had lunch at the Rumblin Tum cafe, and then stopped off at the Black Bull for a drink – again recently refurbished and a lovely place to drink, eat or stay.

The old cemetery in Moffat is home to graves from the 1800s. I find old cemeteries fascinating – the detail on the graves of the family and the ages they died.

Moffat cemetary

Moffat cemetary view

There was a large memorial in the middle of the cemetery.

Memorial in Moffat cemetary

And this plaque outside on the gates.

Moffat cemetary sign

Devils Beef Tub is a 500 ft deep hollow formed by four hills. It’s a popular tourist walk these days, but in the 1800s it was obviously less traversable. John McAdam, mentioned, was the inventor or “macadamisation” – an effective and economical method of building roads which did much to improve travel and communication.

St Andrews church has been in situ for 125 years.

Moffat church

The Star Hotel is the narrowest hotel in the world! It’s in the Guinness Book of Records!

With the onset of rain and a strong breeze (typical that our trip coincided with the end of the heatwave!) we headed back to the Annandale Arms.

We ate dinner and breakfast in the hotel, and both meals were amazing. For dinner I had pate to start, and the husband had haggis moneybags (haggis wrapped in thin pastry). For main we both had venison which was absolutely sublime. Tender, well cooked, just incredible, and served with black pudding mash (yum).

At breakfast we both went for kedgeree, which again was fresh and flavoursome and delicious.

Both dinner and breakfast menus were very comprehensive, with lots of choice. The hotel obviously prides itself on the quality of it’s produce and it shows through.

One last highlight was the duvet, which is the best bed cover I have ever slept under IN MY LIFE and, when we checked out, one of the staff members kindly went back to the room and took a photograph of the label for me so that I can track one down to recreate the Moffat experience here in Birmingham!

It was a short but very sweet trip, and I’d have no hesitation in recommending the town and the hotel to anyone. It would be an ideal stop over when heading further up to the Scottish Highlands, which is something we’ve talked about doing in the future (just add it to the ever growing list of places we want to visit!)

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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A visit to Port de Soller, Majorca

When we started planning our long weekend in Palma, I began researching feasible day trips that would compliment our visit without taking up too much time. It’s nice to get out of a city and see some of the surrounding areas if your visit permits (like the time we went to Cannes and Antibes while staying in Nice, or when we took the train to Annecy on the French Swiss border from our base in Lyon). I read a blog post by Stephanie at Priceless Life of Mine singing the praises of Port de Soller, and another by Sima at The Curious Pixie and Port de Soller became art of our travel itinerary.

What we didn’t bank on was a last minute change to our itinerary thanks to rain on our arrival, then road closures in Palma on the morning we planned to take the open top bus tour because of a public running race meaning we brought the train journey to Soller forward a day. Which is why we missed an earlier train than I would have liked!

The trainline from Palma to Soller has been operational since 1911. Port de Soller was starting to boom in the late 1800s but, being quite isolated on the other side of the mountains, links to the capital Palma were slow and limited. The trainline tunnels through the mountains, making the journey a palatable one hour long, with some lovely scenery along the way. The train itself is old and wooden and leaves from the Ferrocaril de Soller station in Palma just 6 times a day. It’s a popular tourist attraction with a limited number of carriages, so arriving early to book your ticket is recommended (we actually just missed the previous train, because it was fully booked).

Inside the train there are no real comforts! Seats are bench style on either side of the carriage and there are opening windows. That’s pretty much all you can say! No air con, no toilets and no refreshments. And it’s wonderful for it.

Inside the train

Wooden train to Soller

As I mentioned, the journey takes around an hours, during which time you snake through countryside, alongside the Serra de Tramuntana mountains (a world UNESCO site) and through tunnels before emerging on the other side at the inland town of Soller.

Now, the original plan (in my head) had been to have a wander around Soller – there isn’t an awful lot there but the architecture looks pretty and there’s a nice church and some botanical gardens. But, as I said, we were already later than we’d have liked to be, plus there appeared to be a cycling race happening in Soller (more plan scuppering healthy people!) and, in truth, we were hungry, so we hopped on the first tram which took us down to the port.

Wooden tram to Port de Soller

The trams are also wooden and run on electric from the town in the hills about 3km down to sea level and along the beach front. It pays to keep your eyes open to avoid finding yourself in the path of one (ears are less useful as they’re very very quiet).

Open tram at Port de Soller

There isn’t an awful lot to do in Port de Soller really, but sometimes that’s nice, don’t you think? We ambled along the front, watched people braving the sea (although it was a beautiful day the water is still cold in early May), looked at the boats and found a nice place for lunch where I had Majorcan aubergines and 2 large glasses of sangria.

I’d already decided that we should get the bus back, because the return train timetable to Palma is as intermittent as on the way there, with long waits between trains if you miss one. It also afforded us some different views as we snaked along the mountain paths.

The bus stopped off at the mountain village of Valldemossa, you can see how high it is in the mountains by the clouds hovering over the top of the buildings.

Again I would have like to have had a walk around, but it was getting rather late and we’d already walked quite a lot that day (my Mother in Law was with us, so I had to be considerate – not my strongest point when we’re sightseeing!) so we stayed on the bus back to Palma.

Imagine living in this house! Beautiful, until you get home and realise you’ve forgotten the milk (or wine!)

House in the Serra de Tramuntana mountains Majorca

It was great to see another side of Majorca; it has a reputation for being just a beach destination but I hadn’t realised how green and mountainous it is away from the coast, which is a great draw for hikers and mountain bikers.

Missed my other Palma posts? Read an overview of our visit here and about Palma cathedral here.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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Palma Cathedral

Building work on Palma Cathedral or, to give it it’s full name, the Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma, started in 1229 and wasn’t finished until 1601. It’s Catalan Gothic style has undergone work and changes throughout the centuries to bring it to the point it’s at today. It has one of the largest rose windows in the world (known as the Gothic Eye) and is the main focus of Palma’s coastline, overlooking the Parc de la Mer and the port.

As often happens with me and tourist attractions, I got so engrossed that I couldn’t stop looking at it and taking photographs. Even though we passed it multiple times during our short stay, I never tired of marvelling at the detail or the sheer scale of the building.

Palma Cathedral in the sunshine

In truth, for me, the outside was probably more impressive than the inside, purely from an aesthetic point of view. I mean, just look at that detail! The intricate carvings and turrets are incredible. But the Gothic Eye and other stained glass windows are very beautiful and bathe the light stone interior in lots of colours, and for just 7 euros entrance fee it’s certainly worth a visit.

It’s also possible to book a tour of the cathedral terraces, which aren’t open to the general public, but we didn’t get chance on this occasion.

There’s always next time…!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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A weekend in Palma de Mallorca

I’m quite the fan of going away for May Bank Holiday weekend – you get an extra day “free” and generally the weather in Europe is better than at home so its good time to soak up a bit of culture and avoid the wash out that is usually a UK bank holiday.

Imagine my chagrin then, when the weather forecast in the lead up to our weekend in Palma last month was predicting rain, while the UK was in for a heatwave? That’s not how it’s supposed to work! (although, thinking about it, our May Bank Holiday trip to Lyon a couple of years ago came with rain and wind, although at least the UK had the decency to be having the same weather at home).

Ever the optimist (seriously, I’m the kind of person who will look through ALL the weather forecasts until I find one I like!) off we went on our early morning flight to Palma with me declaring it would “all be fine” and if it does rain “it won’t last long”.

Well, it was raining when the plane touched down, raining when we left airport arrivals and absolutely torrentially bucketing down by the time the taxi dropped us off at our hotel about an hour later. It was too early to check in and we were only in the city for 3 nights so we left our luggage at the hotel, dug out our brollies and headed out into the narrow cobbled street (me in open toed sandals, told you I’m an eternal optimist, I didn’t pack any wet weather shoes!)

It rained all the way through lunch in Placa Espanya (although I still insisted on sitting outside “because were on holiday” even though we got dripped on from the welcome but not completely covering us awnings) but by the time I’d finished my second goldfish bowl glass of sangria the clouds had started to break and that was that for the whole weekend.

Palma de Mallorca is the capital of Majorca, largest of the Balearic Islands and around 2.5 hours flight from Birmingham. Lots of people land on the island and head straight to the beach resorts, and of course there’s the hideous party town of Magaluf that doesn’t do Majorca’s reputation any favours but the island is very beautiful, with so much more to offer than white sands, cheap beer and a really good climate (arrival day excepted). Just 20 minutes in a taxi from the airport, the capital is a maze of cobbled streets, bright plazas, a bustling harbour with cruise ships coming in and out and the piece de resistance, Palma Cathedral. It has a wealth of great shopping opportunities (we weren’t there to shop, but if you were you wouldn’t be disappointed), some great food and wonderful architecture.

We did our usual open top bus tour to get a feel for the city, wandered through narrow streets, ate delicious ice cream, looked up at the buildings, looked out at the sea, took a train journey away from the city and up through the mountains (more on that in another post) and generally just had a lovely time.

Here are some pics.

Palma Cathedral

We stayed at the Dalt Murada hotel which is in the Gothic Quarter and very well located for the cathedral, seafront and lots of places to eat. It’s a 16th century building situated on a very narrow side street which would, at some point, been lived in by a well to do family. There’s lots of dark wood, stone floors and old paintings, a bright breakfast room opening up on to an internal courtyard (we didn’t eat breakfast in the hotel) and a rooftop terrace with views towards the cathedral. It was reviewed in The Telegraph and I’d say it’s pretty bang on. I’d always rather have a bit of character than a faceless place to stay, given the choice.

Have you ever been to Palma? Or to Majorca? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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A visit to Wollerton Hall Gardens

Ever since my garden has become my new favourite thing, it’s fair to say I’m obsessed with all things horticultural. I spend at least one lunchtime each week in the garden centre, I like nothing more than potting up pretty plants for my patio and I’ve started collecting shrubs for my newly cleared borders which are a wonderful blank canvas for me to start planning.

So when I saw that Gardeners World had a 12 month 2 for 1 gardens entrance card in their May magazine, I was all over it.

I’ve only used it once so far, when I went to Wollerton Hall Gardens last weekend.

The entrance fee is £7, or just £3.50 each with the 2 for 1 card. It’s probably quite expensive, for what it is, if like me you just wanted to have a meander and a bit of a nose. It’s certainly not a whole day out, but there is a nice tea room so you could probably get a couple of hours out of it. It’s a shame the (grade II listed, timber framed) hall isn’t open to the public but it’s beautiful to look at from the outside, and everything is immaculate.

The gardens are separated into “rooms” – each one with a different theme and/or colour scheme.

Poppies Wollerton Old Hall

Topiary Wollerton Old Hall

Lessons from our visit:

a) I need some poppies

b) I need some alliums (the purple ball shape flowers, top left)

c) I need to train my climbing roses

Are you a garden fan? Visiting, doing? I’m already looking for places to visit next!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

 

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Rome – where we stayed and where we ate

It’s my final post about Rome, promise (until I go back again – which I most definitely will). I thought I’d do a quick round up of the more practical things – sleeping and eating!

Hotel Antica Dimora delle Cinque Lune
This hotel was marvellous; situated on the top 3 floors of a 6 story building, I can’t honestly remember how or why we chose it (which is unusual for me) but it ticked the boxes in terms of location (5 minutes one way to Piazza Navona, and 5 minutes the other way to the bridges crossing the River Tiber for the Vatican City) and quirkiness (the room was very gothic).

The lobby area on our floor had an opulent lounge area.

And the wooden shutters in our bedroom opened up on to candy coloured buildings and pavement cafes.

Breakfast was served on the roof with views across the city.

Hotel Antica Dimora del Cinque Lune Rome breakfast terrace view

Breakfast was standard continental fare – pastries, yoghurts, fruit, boiled eggs, cooked meats and pizza slices (when in Rome!). The staff were super helpful; storing our bags before check in and after check out so we could make the most of our time in the city, supplying maps and recommendations and generally just being really friendly and approachable. I’d recommend it to anyone visiting Rome.

Caffe Bianco

Caffe Bianco RomeOur first meal in Rome was at a little bistro near Piazza Navona, where we ate bruschetta and pasta with a glass of wine for just 12 euros each (our expenditure on food increased massively after this point!) We sat outside under patio heaters and watched the world go by and it was lovely. It is possible to eat cheaply in Rome, contrary to my expectations, but with it being my birthday trip we splashed out on some nicer places which made the break more expensive than it could have been.

433 restaurant

433 restaurant RomeWe spotted this place whilst wondering back to our hotel on our first evening, and said immediately we’d go back there to eat. It was all lit up with fairy lights, had warm welcoming patio heaters outside and just looked so quaint and pretty, plus the menu ad us drooling before we’d even got through the door! This is up there as one of my most memorable restaurant experiences ever; we sat tucked in a corner by the window, drinking chianti, and had the most incredible steak wrapped in bacon and truffle. It was PHENOMENAL.

Caffe Sant Anna

This was the lowest point of our dining in Rome, and kind of our own fault for not researching in advance. We had time for lunch in the Vatican City between our Vatican Museums and St Peters Basilica visits so stopped off at this place as it “looked nice”. Big mistake. We ordered a glass of wine each and the guy bought us a bottle. No matter; I’m not averse to daytime drinking and we thought perhaps they didn’t serve wine by the glass. The husband ordered a salad, and I ordered gnocchi, and while we were waiting for our food I checked TripAdvisor where there was review after review about the poor quality of the food (microwaved), and the discrepancies in final bills, people being overcharged, people being charged for things they hadn’t ordered – the general consensus was AVOID THIS RESTAURANT! Too late for us, we hoped for the best, but their poor reputation was proven when I watched my gnocchi be spooned into a bowl from a deli counter and then microwaved until it was so hot I couldn’t eat it, the husband’s salad was pretty much devoid of anything other than leaves, and the final bill showed 35 euros for the bottle of wine, when I knew it was only 25 euros on the menu. I challenged the wine price while the husband used the bathroom; the waiter gave me some bullshit excuse about having given us someone else’s bill by mistake (how convenient other people were eating what we were but drinking a more expensive wine?!) and the husband came back with reports of blood smeared all over the toilet. 55 euros down, no tip and a very sharp exit, as well as a lesson learned!

Osteria Dell Anima

We’d spotted this on our wanderings as well, and put it on the list to visit purely for the veal in truffle sauce (I do love how restaurants in Europe display their menus outside so you can make sure there’s something you want before you’re seated at a table). We arrived fairly late, and the restaurant was empty, but we were assured they were very much open and very much still serving. The lack of atmosphere and surly attitude of the staff, along with the fact I was trying to order a replacement oven online because our builder at home, in the final phases of work pre-Christmas, had told me by text that I wouldn’t have an oven for Christmas Day (we were hosting both Christmas and Boxing Day dinners!) made for quite a strange dining experience, but the meal itself was incredible. Truffle sauce – yowsers!

Clemente Alla Maddalena

Situated in one of Rome’s many piazzas, we stopped here for lunch on my birthday. Undeterred by winter, the restaurant had placed the outdoor terrace undercover and supplied blankets and patio heaters which added to the lovely atmosphere (I’m a big advocate of sitting outside whenever possible). We drank rose wine under the fairy lights and ate spaghetti bolognese (small portion, but very very tasty) and I decided that being 40 wasn’t so bad after all.

Cantina e Cucina

The husband had researched my birthday meal and found a lovely restaurant but, when we arrived, they had a private party on and weren’t catering for anyone else. He was understandably gutted, but I suggested we head back down the road to Cantina e Cucina which I’d read very good reviews of on TripAdvisor. The restaurant was lovely; very rustic Italian with checked table cloths, candles in wine bottles and herbs hanging from the ceiling. So welcoming and cosy with very friendly staff.

To start I had deep fried artichoke, which is a Roman speciality,  and the husband had the biggest bucket of calamari – we couldn’t actually finish it all. We both had  veal saltimboca for main. It was all ok, just not what I expected (my fault for ordering off piste) but the wonderful atmosphere, and the candlelight, and the chianti made everything amazing anyway, even if the food wasn’t the star of the show. Oh and I got a tiramisu with a sparkling candle and the waiter sang Happy Birthday; what’s not to like?!

Napoletano’s

Taken as I was with the Pantheon, along with it’s proximity to our hotel, it made sense that our last lunch of the holiday would be eaten at one of the restaurants facing the magnificent building before our car for the airport arrived. We settled on Napoletano’s for it’s perfect positioning, outdoor tables and a very welcoming waiter. Even though it was barely lunchtime (about 11.50am!) I was determined to finish the holiday with a lasagne and…you guessed it…more chianti!

And it was magnificent. Really rich sauce and perfectly al dente pasta. The sun was shining, the skies were blue, a busker was playing songs that filled the piazza, and we both swore that we would be back again to this most fabulous city.

I feel kind of sad that I won’t be blogging about Rome any more in the near future, but I had a wonderful 4 days there and I’ve been reliving it for almost 5 months through these posts so…until next time…

If you missed any of my previous posts about Rome, click the links below:

A trip to Rome (aka the holiday that almost never was)

Day 2 in Rome – Vatican Museums and St Peters Basilica

Day 3 in Rome – The Colosseum and Roman Forum

Rome’s hidden treasures – Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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Rome’s hidden treasures – Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps

When I say hidden treasures, I obviously don’t mean in the true sense of the word; the Pantheon, Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain are all very well known Roman attractions. But I was super surprised by their location within the city, and how unobvious they were!

Let me explain. On our first day in Rome we went on a city bus tour. We like to do this on most city breaks because it gives a good feel for the city, the highlights, etc and then we generally go back in our own time to visit the places we want to see. During our bus tour around Rome, the commentary pointed out that both the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps weren’t visible from the bus, and we’d need to get off at the nearest stop and walk to them, which we resolved to do at a later point.

That same afternoon, after lunch, we were wandering around the area near to our hotel and I said we should go the the Pantheon. Do you think we could find it? Even the power of Google maps on my phone wasn’t enough to locate this world famous landmark (admittedly my map reading isn’t the best, I have to get in the map like Joey in Friends). We were tantalisingly close and we knew it but just couldn’t quite pinpoint it. Later on we would find the reason why – it’s tucked away in a piazza with no fanfare or big signs or feel of a huge tourist attraction – it’s just there. We rounded the corner and there it stood in front of us.

The first time we went in was dark, so when we looked up the dome we couldn’t tell whether the black dot in the middle was a window, or something else.

Insisting on returning the next morning, we found that it’s an oculus – an opening into the sky with no glass or covering. Rain falls through the hole and is then carried away by the drains inside the building. I found that pretty amazing; that it’s existed for all those years with such a design. The Pantheon has existed, in it’s current incarnation, since 126 AD.

Inside the Pantheon Dome

Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. Wow!

I loved the Pantheon. It was possibly one of my favourite buildings in Rome, which is quite a bold boast. Maybe it’s because we tried so hard to find it! Or because we saw it most of all (once we’d come across it the first time it felt like we passed it 3 times a day!) but I never tired of taking photos of it!

It was certainly special enough to be the host to our final lunch, where I ate unctuous lasagne and drank chianti and bathed in winter sunshine and the glory of an amazing trip.

The Trevi fountain is similarly tucked away, more so than the Pantheon (although better signposted). Walking down narrow streets we could hear a hum of people, and then turned a corner and there it was, in all it’s carved, watery glory.

It’s very beautiful, and very crowded – both due to it’s popularity and the limited space (as I said, it’s in a small piazza surrounded on 3 sides by buildings). As such it’s difficult to get many good photos, but just looking at these brings back the amazing memories.

We also went back during the daytime, because I like to squeeze every last drop out of every trip, but I preferred it in the evening because of how beautifully it was lit, and also because the bright sunshine cast shadows over the incredible detail (not that I’m complaining about the sunshine you understand; we were incredibly lucky with the weather and it made everything even better).

And finally, the Spanish Steps, tucked away at the end of a long shopping street (where I spent some of my birthday money on Pandora charms). Again we’d struggled to pinpoint the area, and it was our last stop before our final lunch at the Pantheon, and the poor old husband’s legs and back had given way after days and days of me walking him all over the city.

I didn’t know what to expect and that’s probably to my detriment because I guess I thought it was a tourist attraction in it’s own right, but really it wasn’t. I climbed the steps to the top, because I was there, and the architecture surrounding them is beautiful, but there’s no wow factor as there is in all of the other tourist attractions in the City (and there are a lot). The steps are just steps, and very crowded too.

Trinità dei Monti Cathedral is the imposing building at the top; I didn’t go in but it’s twin spires were very imposing against the beautiful blue sky (there’s me banging on about the weather again).

Catch up on my previous Rome posts below:

Day 1 in Rome

Day 2 – Vatican Museums and St Peters Basilica

Day 3 – Colosseum and Roman Forum

Have you ever been to Rome? Did you have a favourite attraction? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

 

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DAYS OUT: Cardiff Castle

This week I had some emails telling me that Friendsfest tickets are on sale for this year. I guffawed loudly and remembered how crap it was last year – so overpriced and underwhelming (you can read about it, with pics, here). It didn’t help that we’d driven 100+ miles, from Birmingham to Cardiff, for the “privilege” and that it was one of the husband’s birthday presents.

Huge fail!

In an effort to make the day less of a fail we also went to Cardiff Castle, which was 10 minutes walk from Bute Park where FF was hosted. And honestly? That was a disappointment too! As a castle lover I was very much looking forward to visiting but I felt that it was overpriced (£12.50 per adult, for basic entry, plus an additional £3.25 for the house tour). Much of the castle has been rebuilt in more recent years, so it feels like it lacks authenticity (I like my castles gnarly and ruined and grand). The Norman keep was the best bit, in my opinion, as that’s what my idea of a castle is, and it’s a bit of a rip off to charge extra for the house tour considering how little else there is to see and do compared to other Welsh castles that charge much less for entry (we didn’t do it on principal and because it struck us more as entering into stately home territory, which isn’t really our bag).

It’s fair to say I wouldn’t recommend it unless you happen to be in the area (don’t make a special journey); there are much more interesting and striking castles in Wales.

On that note, here are some pics!

 

 

 

 

Have you ever been to Cardiff Castle? What did you think? Am I doing it a disservice?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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Day 3 in Rome – The Colosseum and Roman Forum

If you’re going to have to turn 40, there are worst ways to start your day than waking up in Rome with a visit to the Colosseum on the cards. Once again my pre-planning had come into it’s own, because I found through research that the Colosseum has bookable private tours of areas not open to the public. I wanted to get tickets for the undergound tour, which are are only released a few weeks in advance; I knew they were in high demand and unfortunately missed out. Fortuitously though, a new tour has just been launched – the Belvedere tour – which takes visitors up to the third and fourth tiers of the structure giving incredible views and a real feel of the size of the arena, so we still got to do something “extra” than most people have access to.

As we approached the Colosseum it was so strange to see the contrast of modern construction against such an old and important point of interest (a new underground rail line is being built to service this area of the city).

I underestimated the walking distance from our hotel (much to the chagrin of the husband and his aching bones) so we arrived just about in time to go through security and meet up with our tour guide. Everyone was given a headset to listen to the very interesting commentary as we walked around. The tour starts in the same entrance used by all visitors and then proceeds to the higher levels which are behind locked doors and only accessed by venue officials.

We learned that, despite depictions in films, gladiators fought other gladiators (highly trained fighter who went to “Gladiator School” in an attempt to gain fame and fortune) and not animals (that was reserved for criminals). We learned that it was not only lions that were shipped in for these fights, but also larger African animals like elephants and giraffes! We learned that, to celebrate the opening of the Colosseum in 80AD (known the as the Flavian Amphitheatre), a 100 day ceremony took place which saw events and fighting every day for the length of the opening ceremony. Tickets to attend events at the Colosseum were free, on a first come first served basis, and carved into a stone tablet, apart from upper class seats, right at the side of the arena, which were reserved for the ruling emperor, politicians and wealthy upper class members of society. We looked down from the highest possible point of the structure, looking at the tiered seating and the underground portion of the arena where you can still see evidence of the labyrinth of corridors which would have been hidden by the stage; where fighters and animals were kept until such time that they were due to perform, when they would be propelled up onto the stage by an elaborate (for the time) lift contraption and through a trapdoor.

Read some interesting facts about animal fights in the Colosseum.

After the tour we were free to wander around at will, looking at some of the permanent exhibitions and just feeling the sheer size of the space, marveling at the construction (it’s so symmetrical! And so well preserved!) And obviously taking all of the photos!

Me at the colosseum

After leaving the Colosseum, we headed across the cobbled courtyard to the entrance to the Forum and Palatine Hill, which is included in the costs of the standard Colosseum entry ticket. The ticket is valid for 2 days, so you could do one attraction on one day and the other the next, which is very useful if you’re pushed for time. It also represents really good value with everything you get to see for one price.

The Forum was the centre of ancient Rome, originally a marketplace and now surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government ruins. Shrines and temples, columns, both intact and in pieces, carved stone – it’s amazing to see the layout of the area still as it once was, even after all these years.

These doors are 2000 years old, and the lock still works! (that blew my mind)

2000 year old doors Roman Forum

The Arch of Titus was commissioned by Emperor Titian, in memory of his brother.

I wonder what this says?

Carvings on roman ruins

Upon leaving I took even more photos of the Colosseum because, honestly, it was just breathtaking and just incredible to see.

What a way to spend a birthday!

Did you see my previous posts, about my first day and second day?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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